Sad Realization: Legion Doesn’t Mean What It Used To

I just realized, while reading Michael’s Legion blog, that I’m not a Legion fan anymore.

I’ve been reading the current comic, but I couldn’t tell you what’s happening in it, and the characters seem like paper dolls to me, moved into poses and combinations of no meaning.

Legion of Super-Heroes #11 cover

I don’t watch the Saturday morning cartoon, either. I’m glad it’s out there, introducing the characters to a new generation, but the plots and situations are too simplistic for me; I’m only willing to put time into watching shows with more characterization and depth. (That’s not a criticism or a statement of what the cartoon should be, just understanding that their goals and mine are different.)

Toys and other merchandise have never been satisfying, because you need so many of them to actually HAVE a Legion, and the product lines never last that long.

When I first dove into the world of the Legion 14 years ago, I never dreamed that it would set off a chain reaction that led to my second career (writing and this blog) and my wonderful husband (I was such a fan that I collected the editor, buh dump ba). And I never dreamed that I would now be at a point where I can look around, shrug, and read something else instead.

At one point, I was so upset by events in the comic that I vowed I was giving it up, but that didn’t last. Emotional reactions like that don’t, because you still have the passion. It’s when there’s a lack of any feeling at all that you’ve truly given up. Or it’s given you up. I understood this when I read Michael’s Wizard World LA coverage, in which Mark Waid announces that he’s quitting the book.

Because Barry [Kitson’s] moving to Marvel and we’ve been the Legion team since the relaunch, I can’t see doing the book without him. The timing of it all means we had to move our plans up a few months, so issue #30 will be our last, and I’m moving on. That booming noise you hear is the sound of message board posters around the world whooping in delight. Judging by the internet, I will not be missed.

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #1

My sole reaction was “I’m sorry to see that he feels so unappreciated. It’s a shame that he needed to bring up bad reaction in saying goodbye.” I didn’t know that fan comment was all that negative, because I haven’t paid any attention to fan comment in years. (Internet message boards seem even worse than they were in the 90s, or at least not any better.)

I had high hopes for the book when the creators were first announced, but the ideas and approaches that were so exciting to hear about during convention panels didn’t seem to make it to the page, at least not in a way that I recognized. If anything, I’d blame my lack of interest on me, though, since I no longer have the patience to read monthly serial superhero comics with ongoing storylines, and I didn’t have an online support group to discuss ramifications and speculations with.

The new writer, at least temporarily, is Tony Bedard, whose work in the past I’ve found to be pedestrian at best, so this struck me as a great point to let the drifting away process complete itself. On the other hand, I’m still looking forward to seeing J. Torres’ stories for the new all ages Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century book. Those tend to be stand-alone, which allows for more focus and actual endings.

27 Responses to “Sad Realization: Legion Doesn’t Mean What It Used To”

  1. David Oakes Says:

    Sucks when you find yourself unable to even say “This sucks”, doesn’t it? All those blog commenters with the ubiquitous refrain of “If you don;t like the comics, why do you review them?” have never faced the sheer power of apathy.

    And while I too am not watching the animated series – more from timing than apathy, the one ep I did catch was worth 20 minutes of my life – I think we can take heart in J. Torres. His TTG stories show that he can write kids as kids, and not children or small adults. And his last few show he is more than willing to play with every toy in the sandbox, a requisite for any true Legion scribe.

  2. Lyle Masaki Says:

    Toys and other merchandise have never been satisfying, because you need so many of them to actually HAVE a Legion, and the product lines never last that long.

    I have to admit, I’m still jaded on how the original PVC sets played to the usual assumption with toy manufacturers that female characters don’t sell, including more male than female Legionnaires in both sets. The Legion’s always been a superhero soap opera

    I liked the Waid/Kitson Legion quite a bit but outside of more dedicated Legion fans, I found few people who agreed with my reaction, most superhero readers I know just kinda shrugged and didn’t get excited.

    As much as I liked this run, though, this title hasn’t survived my dropping all monthlies. I know I’ll want to buy any collections that include issues I haven’t gotten, but that doesn’t mean I’ll spend money on it in the store because there’s so much else competing for my dollar. (As seen by that Sabrina collection I still haven’t purchased.)

  3. Johanna Says:

    I think, Lyle, that the book might have been much more successful ten or twenty years ago. Nowadays, expectations have changed to either over-the-top stunts or clearly delineated, easily collectible storylines.

  4. Tommy Raiko Says:

    This doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, but whenever I come to similar sad realizations that I’m just not enjoying stuff (be they comics, or music, or movies, or foods, or whatever else) that I used to like, I’m reminded of the line from the poem Desiderata that goes “Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.”

    It’s just that I wish I could replace those things of youth with something else I enjoy as much…

  5. Johanna Says:

    Oooh, thoughtful, I like that. And there are comics and graphic novels and manga out there that I enjoy… but nothing inspires that same “gotta have them all” drive that once led me to want to read all the Legion stories and buy back issues and chart the characters’ names and home planets.

    Well, I take that back. Right now, Remington Steele DVDs are driving me the same way, but there, it’s only episodes and fanfic. :)

  6. Ray Cornwall Says:

    There’s something amazing about the pre-ZH Legion, especially the Levitz run. I was fine with the ideas behind both reboots, but I’m now left conceding that the characters being presented today just aren’t the characters I fell in love with when I read those comics long ago.

    I stopped collecting back issued in 2003 (it’s either graphic novels or torrents for me at this point), but the Legion was the last set of books I hunted for. I drove to multiple stores hunting down back issues of Legion Lost. The week after my honeymoon, I almost ended our marriage when an Amazon seller offered me the first ten Archives for $10 each. I’ve bought and loved the TwoMorrows books about the Legion.

    I’ve bought the Waid/Kitson trades. I read the first one, and just haven’t gotten to the rest. I’ll read them, and I’m sure I’ll like them; I have enough faith in the creators. But it’s just not the Legion that I fell in love with.

    I know exactly how you feel, Johanna.

    Here’s the question- if the next DC event- World War III or Countdown or whatever- brought back the pre-ZH Legion, or even the post-ZH Legion, would that suck you back in, even for a little bit?

  7. Andrew Wickliffe Says:

    I loved the Waid/Kitson Legion until the issue where Supergirl showed up. Then it just got mediocre and plot oriented… like Waid had lost all his passion for the project, which he had in abundance those early issues….

  8. Barry Says:

    This is a particularly interesting thread for me, as I barely read comics anymore. On some level I miss them, but on the other hand, there isn’t much I’m interested in reading. Even books I liked a few months ago, like Astonishing X-Men, I’ve been buying but haven’t had a chance to sit down and read. Like Johanna, I’m more interested in TV shows on DVD like Scrubs and The Office UK, or listening to/playing music. Or just browsing for this or that on the web. I was thinking of picking up the new Buffy Season 8 series, but with it selling out and a 2nd printing coming out whenever, I’ll either wait for the trade or skip it altogether, as I didn’t like the direction the series was going in when it ended.

    So yeah, comics are pretty much a thing of the past for me. But I still like reading people’s thoughts about them, so I’ll still be checking out this site for the foreseeable future. :-)

  9. Johanna Says:

    Ray: No, I don’t think it would… because you can’t undo the past, regardless of how much superhero comics want to believe you can. All those stories inbetween happened, and so those characters won’t be the same ones. (Plus, of more practical consideration, I don’t know that any writers and artists DC would hire today would be capable of capturing the mood from back then.)

    Barry: I hope you’re able to come back to comics at some point when there are books you’re excited about reading. Thanks for still reading here in the meantime.

  10. Michael Rawdon Says:

    Heh. For me, it was Paul Levitz’ second go-round on the series (The Great Darkness Saga and going from there) which made me realize this wasn’t the Legion I grew up with, as it seemed like all the characterization and fun had been leeched out of the series, and I was reading about these strangers in (more-or-less) the same uniforms.

    The funny thing it, his first go-round was only a few years earlier, and to me that’s a great period in the series’ history.

    So being at this point so totally removed from my personal “golden age” for the Legion, I can sit back and enjoy (or not) the individual visions that new creators bring to the series. In that sense, it’s almost nice that the book gets rebooted every few years.

  11. Rob Staeger Says:

    I’ve been really enjoying the Waid/Kitson LSH, but I have to admit seeing Dawnstar’s arm in JSA #1 offered a thrill that surprised me — a relic of MY Legion was coming back, and up until then I hadn’t even realized how much I missed them.

  12. Allan Says:

    I still buy the Legion — though I admit it’s entirely out of habit. I don’t even read them. I look at the burgeoning pile and tell myself I WILL read them… one day. For me, it all went wrong after the first year of Five Years Later. That first year, with Giffen on top form, was gripping. After that, it slid away quickly and never really recovered.

    As for whether any writers DC might employ could recapture the old spirit of the Legion — well, there’s always Paul Levitz, or — drum roll — Jim Shooter… On the other hand, that might really be disappointing.

  13. Barry Says:

    Thanks Johanna – I still have a bunch of graphic novels (probably over 30) that a bought in the last two years I’d still like to read and I might pick up Joe Matt’s upcoming “Spent” OGN as well as any future Peanuts volumes, which you mention in your other post. I might also consider another Gasoline Alley and Dennis the Menace collections, as I’ve enjoyed the ones I have. As for anything new? Maybe American Born Chinese, but otherwise, not really sure. I’m pretty much done with traditional superheroes though, as I’ve no desire to keep up with monthly serials and as with the Legion, the characters have moved so far away from what I used to love about them, that I’ve lost all interest. But you keep recommending and I’ll keep reading. Maybe something will catch my eye…

  14. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I spent a lot of time thinking about this tonight. Good topic, Johanna!

    One thing that the Legion’s lost is the audience’s willingness to interact with the material and the characters and create new things based on the “official” comics. LSH spurred fan-fics, APAs, newsletters and amateur art based on what was in the official comics. I can’t think of any other comic that generated that much fan activity- there’s more Legion fan-fic than, say, Batman or Spider-Man fan-fic, even though the latter two characters are more well-known.

    Maybe DC should try encouraging that sort of spirit with the new Legion. Hiring big name talent didn’t work for this reboot. Why not let the audience write the stories to some extent? Hold contests where the audience proposes story ideas, pick one, and get a decent writer to craft a story. Encourage the audience to create new costumes, new characters, and membership rosters. Restore the tradition of having the audience pick the team leader. And don’t do this stuff one or two times- make audience participation essential to the Legion experience. The Legion could be “the” Web 2.0 comic, recreating the traditional fan experience that only the LSH had.

  15. James Schee Says:

    Hmm I still read the LSH in trade form, and I’ve thought Waid’s run has had some iteresting ideas. You are right that it doesn’t have the same magic, but then what really does over time?

    When I was a kid just getting into comics GI Joe and Transformers, yet when they brought them back they weren’t the same. As I was passing from those originally though I found and loved the LSH, and now they just don’t have the sam oomph either.

    I think it shows a certain amount of growth, when what you read changes over time. I hope there are more readers like that, as I think a trap comic readers often fall into is reading the same thing over and over.

  16. Michael Grabois Says:

    Ray – I don’t know if you can say that this reboot “didn’t work”. Here are the sales figures for the last 10 years.

    Yes, sales on the current series have dropped, but sales on all comics are dropping (though maybe with different rates). However, sales are still higher than at any point in the last ten years, and that’s got to count for something.

  17. Brian Pate Says:

    I understand how you feel somewhat. I’ve been a Legion fan for over 30 years. Back during the Levitz/Giffen heyday, it was my favorite title. And it hasn’t been in a long time. I’ve been reading the new book, and it’s okay, but I just don’t have a passion for it anymore. I yearn for the days of old.

  18. david brothers Says:

    I guess I’m the only real LoSH newbie here. I’d only read two issues of Legion before the Waid/Kitson reboot. Both were late ’70s or early ’80s hand-me-downs from my uncle. One featured a cover with Tyroc screaming about how his planet or island was going to disappear for one hundred (one thousand?) years, and the other was when Superboy went back to the past and the Legion took his memories of the future. Beyond that, I’d never gotten into the series.

    But, the Waid/Kitson stuff, barring a two or three issue hiccup just when Supergirl joined, has been pretty interesting. He hooked me from the start with the idea of teenage rebellion as force for positive change and he made Brainy into one of my favorite characters.

    I’ll freely admit that I have no frame of reference here for story quality in relation to past LSH tales, though. In terms of hooking new readers, they seem to be doing okay. LoSH used to be one of those dark corners of the DCU that a Marvel Zombie like myself knew nothing about.

  19. Johanna Says:

    I probably should clarify: I’m not saying Legion is a bad book. I think it’s one of the better superhero books out today. My post was made more to say that I’d realized that I was a different person now, one I didn’t expect to be (but not in a bad way).

  20. Ray Cornwall Says:

    Michael, if you look at the sales graph, sales may be higher, but they’re quite volatile. From Jan 05 to Jan 06, readership plunged from over 60K to just over 30K. Half the audience left!

    Then, they introduced Supergirl to the team, and readership went back to 55K. But in less than twelve months, the readership slips back down to about 33 K. 40% of the audience walked away again.

    This title has actually captured significant Direct Market action twice in the last two years, only to watch significant portions of the audience walk away. Before the 2nd reboot, the audience was only 25K, but it was a steady 25K. It’s now 33K, but it’s dropping like a rock, and facing a creative change.

    You can look at the total number of copies sold over the last two years, and say the reboot was a success. Or you can look at the fact that you held two “tentpole” events in two years- the reboot and Supergirl- and the audience, after giving it a chance, ran screaming.

    The only thing I can think of that would mitigate the sales drop is TPB sales. Only the first few issues of the post-ZH reboot were ever put into trade paperback. Legion Lost should have been put into a trade, I believe, based upon the skyrocketing prices it received in the back issue market. DC could have built an audience with those who wait for the trades. Instead, it rebooted the whole thing, and threw its weight behind Waid/Kitson.

  21. Chris G. Says:

    I’ll also use the change in writers as a drifting-away point, though I’ve quite enjoyed Waid and Kitson’s run — it’s the only book with ANY connection to DC’s main line of titles that I’m still reading at the moment.

    I’ve found myself less and less interested even in monthly comics by creators I like — if you’d told me five years ago that Grant Morrison would be writing Batman, Kurt Busiek would be writing Superman, and Mark Waid would be writing Brave & Bold, and that I’d be reading NONE of those books as they came out I’d have said you were nuts. But as it is I’d rather wait for a trade I can put on a shelf instead of a single issue that will be stacked in a box and pretty much forgotten about.

    I’m sure part of DC and Marvel’s turn to big stupid crossover events has been motivated by a desire to get people to need to read new books as soon as they come out, but those events are so brutal and mean and stupid that I’d rather ignore than read them.

  22. Rob S. Says:

    Chris G. wrote:

    I’m sure part of DC and Marvel’s turn to big stupid crossover events has been motivated by a desire to get people to need to read new books as soon as they come out…

    Dan Didio has said as much, a while back — I think he discussed the initiative as “making Wednesdays important again.”

    And earlier, I wrote:

    I have to admit seeing Dawnstar’s arm in JSA #1 offered a thrill that surprised me — a relic of MY Legion was coming back, and up until then I hadn’t even realized how much I missed them.

    I got the same thrill reading the last page of today’s issue of Justice Society. Tease or not, something with the old LSH is coming…

  23. Dan C Says:

    Sorry to hear about this – I understand exactly what you mean, Johanna. I’d been reading this run of the LSH, after being out for about a decade.

    I recall Waid being somewhat testy with you on the old CIS boards, and in general I wasn’t crazy about the tone of his work back then, although I’d liked him prior. But he’d been doing good work here, and I’m sorry to hear the Onlines have it in for him.

    The animated LSH is for kids, true,but there’s an odd frisson from seeing Night Girl,Polar Boy an dthe Subs animated. I’d have been out of my mind when I was in grade school.

    And the Other animated LSH, seen in the last Supergirl appearance in JLU, was a blast. Wish there was more of that – Rory Gilmore’s boyfriend Logan voicing Brainy, Supergirl’s crush? Unimprovable.

    I hope that this LSH run continues, but Bedard is an unknown quantity. Too perfect a jumping of point,

  24. Ray Tate Says:

    I’m with you, Johanna. It was the promise of Supergirl being drawn by a real artist that led me to the newest incarnation of the Legion, but I just didn’t like any of them. I liked how Waid handled Supergirl as this bright ray of hope, but everybody else when they didn’t behave like cardboard was just so nasty. The plots just didn’t interest me–robots run amok, “yawn.”

    Although an old Legion fan, I really loved and miss the Tom Peyer/Jeff Moy/W.C. Carani Legion. That incarnation was so fun, and the kids were all right. The stories were interesting. The personalities were complementary. I could tell who was speaking by the little nuances in dialogue.

    Typical of DC, when it’s broken they don’t fix it, or the repair amounts to duct tape and a wad of gum. When it isn’t broken, they “fix it.” Imagine… if Supergirl had been drawn by Jeff Moy.


  25. Greg Morrow Says:

    Unless Waid has changed significantly, he takes online criticism personally, and out of proportion, so sniping at the Internet on the way out doesn’t particularly surprise me.

  26. ben miller Says:

    Thoughtful words on the Legion, particuarly in regard to a reader’s reaction and the interior analysis of those reactions. I’m a long-time, former Legion fan myself, but I also find my passion, or really any interest in the book to have vanished. It isn’t even Waid’s current interpretation that’s problematic. I read it at first and thought it was the best idea and execution the Legion’s had in years. For me (outside of a general disgust with DC), the problem is that the Legion has become so much taffy. It’s pulled and stretched and reworked so many times that it ceases to be the Legion I love in my long ago youth. The stories and art might be entertaining, the characters might have the same names, but it’s not the Legion in the sense of the connotations my mind concocts when it hears the word Legion.

  27. Johanna Says:

    Ben, what a great metaphor. The Legion as Silly Putty — and you can’t get it back to what it once was.




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